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Apr 28th 2012 at 4:14:30 AM •••

So, with that other topic covered, I thought I'd open a new one. You said that some other ideas about topics were iaijutsu and notable schools; here are my opinions on each one.

1) As far as iaijutsu is concerned, I think that it has already been covered enough for a casual reader; the page mentions that it's about how to be alert and respond to attacks when one's sword is sheathed, offers a good guide of reiho, and describes 3 possible starting sitting positions (seiza, iai-hiza, iai-goshi). There are more that can be said (the anatomy of an iai kata, for instance) but I think that they fall outside of the scope of this article. I am, of course, open to suggestions.

2) Notable schools... hmmm, why not. The only koryuu I've actually practiced are Katori Shinto Ryu and Muso Shinden Ryu, and those were for 2-3 practices or so each; nevertheless, it was enough to give me a quite good understanding of their philosophies. As far as other ryu are concerned, here's a condensed version of what I know about each:

Yagyu Shinkage Ryu (First users of shinai, used gasshi)
Niten Ichi Ryu (Founded by Musashi, popularised but did not invent two-sword techniques)
Itto Ryu (basis of much of modern kendo, used gasshi as well with a different name)
Jigen Ryu (Single-Stroke Battle over 9000, practiced only one technique for millions of times, was widely feared because of that)
...and that's about it.

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Apr 28th 2012 at 7:30:47 AM •••

Perhaps when talking about the schools, a common set of parameters should be decided upon so they can all be compared in terms of philosophy, temperament, technical focus and context of application?

Apr 28th 2012 at 9:56:13 AM •••

I do think the basics of an iai kata (nukitsuke, furikaburi, kirioroshi, chiburi, noto) need to be covered, but that's just me. As far as notable schools, I'd include Eishin-ryu as one of the oldest known purely iai-based arts. If there are any others I don't know about them.

Apr 28th 2012 at 11:51:15 AM •••

@Tomoe Michieru: Alright then, done. Instead of opening a new section, I expanded on the earlier mention. Now there's a slight logical leap between iaijutsu and battoujutsu, but I'm not sure it's worth thinking of right now.

@Madass Alex: You're 100% correct. Merely introducing the schools wouldn't be as interesting as comparing them; even researching the materials for the article ought to be interesting. I understand "philosophy" as "what frame of mind they tried to approach combat from", "technical focus" as "what techniques they considered most fundamental", and "context of application" as in "battlefield vs everyday life, armoured combat vs unarmoured combat etc". About "temperament", I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean.

Edited by Master_Prichter
Apr 28th 2012 at 8:31:01 PM •••

We're on the same page about those definitions. When it comes to "temperament", I mean where the school sits on the scale of aggression and defense. For instance, it sounds like Jigen Ryu has the rare distinction to sit at the far end of aggression, whereas a lot of iaijutsu forms would be heavily biased towards defense.

May 15th 2012 at 3:05:59 AM •••

Alright, my creative juices are now officially wrung out. I think that the "Eishin Ryu" section needs to be expanded, but I don't have the necessary knowledge... Tomoe Michieru, that's your turn to shine.

Edited by Master_Prichter
Apr 23rd 2012 at 6:32:30 PM •••

I am the original author of this page, and I think you misinterpreted what I wrote about my section on the katana's cutting mechanics. From your wording, you seemed to be under the impression that it cuts with a cleaving motion, like an axe (that's what I think when I see someone use the word 'chopping'. It doesn't - it's a mixture of the swing and drawing it across the surface it's intended to cut.

I'll concede to you a little on footwork; you mentioned Niten Ichi and Yagyu Shinkage. Those I haven't encountered, so I'll have to take it as given that they do it like you said. However, keeping on the balls of your feet allows lighter footwork and quicker movement than does having your heels solidly pressed against the ground - and you need to be as fast and maneuverable as you can in actual combat.

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Apr 24th 2012 at 5:54:58 AM •••

Keeping on the balls of your feet does allow lighter footwork and quicker movement, but: 1) You need to have trained your shin muscles to support it 2) You have to be on a solid surface.

Miyamoto Musashi specifically advised against suri-ashi, because you can't use it if you're fighting on muddy terrain, and because it leads to "a jumpy kind of swordsmanship that I dislike", in his words (FTR)

. As for Katori Shinto Ryu, it kept giving me the impression that it's meant to prepare people to survive sword-fights as soon as possible, and focusing on footwork would take valuable time that would be better spent learning to kill opponents.

And now, about the katana's cutting mechanics: I specifically removed the "slicing" part because I explicitly disagreed with it. I've never performed tameshigiri myself, but the movements that I've been using in my practice would result in negligible-if-not-zero slicing motions, and the main cutting power would come from the cleaving motion. I consulted the ZNKR's instructional video just in case ( and it seemed to me that the katana's arc was largely circular instead of elliptic; the tsuka-gashira stopped at a good 1-2 fists away from his body. If the "pulling" motion was so useful, wouldn't he have explicitly pulled the sword to bring it closer to him? (I'm not even mentioning the kendo kata here, because they most clearly do not have slicing components to them.)

Unless, of course, that's a matter of differences between schools. Do you train in something apart from ZNKR kendo/iaido?

Edited by Master_Prichter
Apr 24th 2012 at 4:11:02 PM •••

I'm not a kenjutsuka, but I study the Liechtenauer longsword tradition of 14th century Germany. While it has no influence over what might be "most correct" in terms of kenjutsu, the ways in which it is the same and different might shed some light on what could be considered valid sword technique.

For instance, the Liechtenauer tradition has a lot of emphasis on moving around one's adversary to pass their defenses and stay out of attack lines. This is emphasised from an early point, and the Liechtenauer method is efficient to learn. This German swordsmanship would be "a jumpy kind" which Musashi would no doubt dislike, but then again, Musashi suggests that swordsmen not try to move around their opponents. Sometimes I gotta question the guy's sanity.

Footwork is a huge part of attack and defense, and being good with it is arguably more important than good cutting technique. It's ultimately footwork that influences where you are, and your placement in relation to your adversary is all-important — fencing of all kinds is essentially geometry, after all.

When it comes to German cutting, we use more of a "cleaving" or "hewing" motion, but sometimes slices as well. It's a different kind of sword for a different context, though. The bulk of the katana's functional life was spent in unarmoured duels, whereas the longsword was a battlefield weapon secondary only to anti-armour polearms.

In any case, I'm not trying to make any ultimate points here, but looking at how styles from radically different places do things might broaden what is considered "correct", since it appears to me that there are a good handful of correct ways to wield a sword.

Apr 24th 2012 at 5:01:13 PM •••

Looking at that video, yes, I can see how you think that. The ellipse made by the sword isn't that pronounced, but it's there. The trick is to have your arms more fully extended at the apex of the stroke so that as your arms come down to waist level it naturally pulls the sword closer, and the sword should be aligned obliquely relative to its direction of motion (ie, not perpendicular.)

I've done tameshigiri only a few times. Now, when you face a tameshigiri mat, you can't rely on the katana's kinetic force to deliver your cut. Yeah, it might go through, that edge will bite into the mat, but it won't be nearly as effective as it could be. It's more likely to just knock the pole over.

Apr 25th 2012 at 10:26:00 AM •••

@Madass Alex: Actually, most modern kendo is of the "jumpy" kind that Musashi would dislike as well, except for very high levels. And, he did advise to move around the opponent IIRC; his favourite move was to evade right-ward and thrust at the neck. But I haven't looked into it all that much, so I could be wrong.

And in fact, I'm not sure about the "bulk of the katana's functional life spent on unarmoured duels" statement. I think it depended upon the time period discussed. Some schools, such as Katori Shinto Ryu, had kata that were mainly meant to be performed when armoured; others were mainly meant to be used unarmoured. (I think Eishin Ryu is like that, but I could be wrong.) Thing is, metal was too rare in Japan to liberally use for armour; the main material used was leather, so it could easily be cut.

@Tomoe Michieru: Alright, I shall concede to that point about iaido, making a mental note to ask my own sensei because I'm still unconvinced. But, can you say that this holds true for all (or, at least, most of) kenjutsu schools? How about Jigen Ryu, with their huge cleaving motions? How about Katori Shinto Ryu, who couldn't care less about details such as that? At the end of it all, how about kendo kata ipponme?

Seeing as katana could cut through multiple human bodies, I'd be surprised if the "slicing" motion was anything but negligible. After all, bones can't be sliced; this was one of the reasons why I was so convinced of my opinion.

Please, do ask your own instructor (which thankfully, as Madass Alex informed me, is not Google) about the matter, and I shall ask mine.

Apr 26th 2012 at 12:33:56 AM •••

The one thing about large cleaving motions is that they can damage a blade and aren't really necessary. All you need to do in order to disable someone is cut them in the correct place, such as at the throat, stomach or wrists.

Furthermore, with a sharp blade, it takes very little kinetic force to make it through leather armour. A European longsword, for instance, can cleave through a limb covered in leather quite cleanly. Boiled and waxed leather is likely to offer more defense, but even then it's unlikely to prevent a whole lot of damage. Keep in mind that armour was used not as a passive defense but error control; the idea was never to get hit if at all possible, but since that was improbable, armour existed as contingency gear. Ergo, a lot of hits would be glancing blows that might cause less substantial damage to even an unarmoured adversary, so armour might defend completely from an attack of that nature.

Leather's greatest quality is its capacity to dull kinetic impact force, so it's not very helpful against bladed attacks that strike evenly.

Remember that efficiency is key in combat; if you can spend less energy and still disable your opponent, it's probably a good idea. This is why I think the katana's alleged ability to cleave through multiple bodies is either an exaggeration or unnecessary; there would never, ever be any need for such an ability and it would be superfluous and wasteful if it were done.

As for the "bulk of its life thing", as I recall, the katana shot to prominence in the Edo period when Japan was officially unified and there were no wars — at least, none fought on battlefields. It was a period of private samurai duels, and the katana proved the best weapon for the task. So its fame is linked to the unarmoured, private form of combat rather than battlefield warfare.

Edited by MadassAlex
Apr 26th 2012 at 9:44:06 AM •••

That is correct. Even during the Sengoku period, the katana was mainly a sidearm.

Although the katana could cut cleanly through a body (or two), that was mainly done as a test of the blade's strength, not as a combat technique. Cutting through tameshigiri mats represents the most you'd probably ever have to do in a fight to kill an enemy. I once asked my instructor why we only used the monouchi (the first nine inches or so from the tip) to cut when the whole sword was sharpened. It's to give the sword enough leeway to come completely free of the target when completing a cut in case multiple opponents are nearby. You wouldn't want your sword to get stuck in somebody's cranium when two or three other guys are charging at you with swords drawn.

Apr 26th 2012 at 1:13:39 PM •••

Um, guys. We're getting off-topic.

I was asking you if you knew of any kenjutsu ryuha that specifically instructed that the sword should be pulled backwards when cutting, and (if so) which ones. And the reason I asked that is because I know for sure that two of them (mentioned above) do not. So what about Yagyu Shinkage Ryu? Or Eishin Ryu? Or Onoha Itto Ryu? Do you have any resources you can look up? Can either side be shown to be in the clear majority, or do we need to showcase both?

The reason I'm insistent on this is because this article is about kenjutsu, not the katana. If the katana cuts better that way, but the kenjutsu ryu did not teach it, then it deserves just a side-note. Do you have any resources/knowledge on that matter? A quick Google search came up with nothing, but maybe you'll have better ideas.

In the meantime, you'll allow me to expand the article somewhat.

Apr 26th 2012 at 1:43:26 PM •••

Eishin-ryu does, Toyama-ryu does, and I'm fairly certain Tamiya-ryu does as well, though I'd have to ask someone I'm in contact with about Tamiya-ryu. As for Onoha Itto-ryu and Yagyu Shinkage, your guess is good as mine.

Edited by TomoeMichieru
Apr 27th 2012 at 1:44:08 AM •••

Alright then, thanks for that. In the meantime, though, it dawned on me how the katana slices; I thought clearer about kirioroshi in slow motion and reached my light-bulb moment. Since the original phrasing was much too easy to misunderstand, allow me to re-phrase it for clarity.

Edit: Done, I hope. This phrasing is clear enough, right?

If all topics have been covered, I think the page is quite good as it is. If not, we'll probably need someone else's input as well.

Edited by Master_Prichter
Apr 27th 2012 at 8:33:45 AM •••

Glad to be of help. I was thinking of including a couple more sections, one on iai (coming from Eishin-ryu knowledge) and another on notable schools.

Apr 23rd 2012 at 12:43:48 PM •••

So, it looks like I'll be doing a major refurbishing of this page. Main goals shall be: 1) Better punctuation 2) Drastic reduction of the second person 3) Correction of various inaccuracies 4) Elimination of most italics after their first use 5) Brutal murdering of that "I combed the entire Internet and then went to two classes: Let me tell you AAALLLLL about it!" feel 6) Replacement of some Japanese terms with English ones 7) Emphasis more balanced, depending on the importance or superfluity of each topic.

I'll also attempt to ensure that the things mentioned are representative of most kenjutsu ryu, rather than just kendo/iaido.

Edited by Master_Prichter Hide/Show Replies
Apr 23rd 2012 at 2:55:17 PM •••

"Brutal murdering of that "I combed the entire Internet and then went to two classes: Let me tell you AAALLLLL about it!" feel"

No need for that. I'm in contact with the person who wrote this page and I know for a fact they have much more experience than that.

A reduction of the second person is probably a good idea, though.

Apr 23rd 2012 at 3:10:35 PM •••

Yeah, on second thought that was probably a rash judgement on my part. But it did feel like an instruction manual, and I had to get rid of that.

To my sadness, the footwork part had to leave. Although it was 100% about modern kendo, it is not indicative of most koryu there are. Katori Shinto Ryu teaches "walk however you like, as long as it doesn't interfere with anything". Niten Ichi Ryu and Yagyu Shinkage Ryu teach "carry most of your weight with your heels". So, since explaining all that is outside of the scope of this page, I opted to delete it.

Edited by Master_Prichter
Apr 23rd 2012 at 3:55:10 PM •••

Footwork is important to all forms of swordsmanship, though. It need not be explained on technical grounds, but at the very least the way it relates to tactics is a huge part of voiding and repositioning.

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